May 17, 2017

The Effects of Today’s Marijuana Is Focus of “Weeding Out the Myths”

Parents: If you think the marijuana your teenagers might be using bears a close resemblance to the stuff you smoked back in college a few decades ago, the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance wants you to think again.

The organization’s upcoming “Marijuana Awareness Forum: Weeding Out the Myths,” tackles that and other related misconceptions in a program targeted to middle and high school students, their parents, and the community. The free event will be held in the auditorium of John Witherspoon Middle School on Wednesday, May 24 from 7 to 9 p.m.

“We felt it was important for parents to have some straight, factual information,” said Gary DeBlasio, director of Corner House, the Princeton-based treatment and prevention agency. Speakers at the forum include representatives from Corner House, the Princeton Police Department, and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

“With all of the legalization of marijuana around the country, as well as medical marijuana, a kind of lackadaisical attitude has developed in the community,” Mr. DeBlasio continued. “We wanted to share what we’re seeing from the perspectives of police, Corner House, and the high school. But this is not a forum about legalization, and we’re not taking any kind of stand on that. It’s just about the facts and what we’re seeing now.”

The evening will include an analysis of a recent survey, initiated anonymously by Princeton High School students, on perceptions about marijuana and its usage. Treatment options will be discussed by the clinical director of Corner House. Princeton Police Sergeant Frederick Williams will talk about the legal aspects of getting caught using marijuana or having related paraphernalia in a car, a home, or at a party.

“We’re there to discuss the ramifications of use,” Mr. Williams said. “A lot of parents, especially of young drivers about 17 and 18 years old, don’t understand that drug offenses in a motor vehicle carry additional penalties, depending on the amount and where you are, such as in a school zone.”

Another scenario Mr. Williams will discuss is what happens when a driver not using marijuana picks up a friend who reeks of the drug. If the driver happens to be stopped by police, and the officer notices the smell, there is trouble. “When you get stopped, your car is now subject to a search, because that smell is a probable cause,” Mr. Williams said. “We’re finding out that this is something kids aren’t aware of. If they are aware, they might make better choices.”

Key to the program is a presentation on the drug and its effects. Many people are not aware of the strength of today’s brand of marijuana, particularly when it is ingested via food. Edible marijuana can be found in muffins, gummy bears, butter, bacon, tea, pizza, and guacamole, among numerous other concoctions.

“The THC [the chemical compound in cannabis that creates a high] levels are very high,” said Mr. DeBlasio, much higher than what pot was 40 years ago. It’s a whole different drug. And the impact on the individual and the brain is much higher, because it can be more hallucinogenic. Parents might not realize that it definitely has an impact on the person’s brain development, motivation, and social interactions.”

Along with alcohol, marijuana is the most popular drug of choice among area high school and college students, Mr. Williams said. While the edible varieties are not easily accessible here, “We are seeing it floating into the community,” he added. “Kids are using it on a pretty regular basis, starting sometimes as young as middle school. Parents need to understand the reality of how it is impacting young minds and recognize the signs.”

The event will include a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session. For more information, visit